Whilst President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced to the nation that water disconnections would be ceased in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) on Thursday and Friday closed taps.
The Corporation was in fact already on its massive water disconnection exercise in Mogoditshane and Gaborone just as the announcement was being made on Thursday morning. By Thursday, WUC had disconnected over 400 defaulting households at Mogoditshane Block 7 while an undisclosed figure of homes were also disconnected in the city, leaving residents disappointed. This is despite the country facing the threat of the coronavirus, which is spreading like wildfire globally.
While this was happening, President Masisi was telling the nation on live television during a press conference that government will get WUC to stop disconnections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Botswana has not yet registered a single positive case of COVID-19, the virus has caused government to enforce precautionary measures, with the general public advised to wash their hands regularly to prevent contracting the virus. And in this period, water has become even more important.
When The Monitor crew arrived in the area, which for a long time was known for having a water crisis, the Corporation’s branded vehicles were visible in the village. At one of the homes that had just been disconnected, which is a multi-residential plot with over 30 tenants, The Monitor found about 11 people. One woman said they were shocked to see WUC officials disconnecting water just as the President was speaking against disconnections.
She said the compound has about 30
“We don’t know how they expect us to cope in this situation. We are told to wash our hands to prevent the spread of the disease, but Water Utilities does not care. How are we going to manage? The sad part is they don’t even talk to you, they just disconnect,” she said. When contacted for comment on Sunday, the Corporation’s spokesperson Beauty Mokoba said they have taken heed of the message by Masisi.
However, she stated that the message came at a time when the Corporation was also taking robust steps to safeguard the production, supply and distribution of water for the nation during these critical times.
“Disconnections have been stopped, and the focus has been on reconnections, fixing leakages, taking proactive water management measures to safeguard continuous service delivery, and safety of our employees,” Mokoba said in a statement.
Mokoba appealed to consumers to use water wisely, and take deliberate steps to save water. She said this is key for ensuring sustainability and availability of potable water, allowing for equitable distribution to all Batswana. She encouraged the public to use the WUC app to pay water bills as a way to manage water accounts and prevent gatherings at WUC revenue offices thereby applying social distancing as advised by government.